2 Dead in NE Processing Plant Blast

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 02:01 PM gHale

An explosion at an animal feed processing plant in Omaha, NE, Monday killed 2 people and seriously injured 10 others, authorities said.

While officials are trying to determine the cause of the explosion and then collapse of the plant, the search for bodies in the International Nutrition plant progressed slowly Monday and had to be suspended as the night wore on due to poor weather and dangerous building conditions.

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Omaha Police Lt. Darci Tierney said they accounted for all 38 of the workers in the building at the time.

In total, officials said two people died, 10 hospitalized and seven hurt but refused treatment. The other 19 workers escaped.

Keith Everett, 53, of Omaha, was one of the victims, officials said. Officials did not release the name of the other victim.

Search-and-rescue experts worked into Monday evening to stabilize the building and removed one victim. But the combination of strong winds, cold temperatures and a dangerous building forced rescuers to suspend operations before firefighters could recover the second victim, Omaha Interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger said.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of pounds of concrete, reinforced concrete and steel,” Kanger said. “This is a very significant rescue operation.”

Authorities don’t know what caused the blast. Kanger did say there were no hazardous chemicals at the three-story plant. International Nutrition makes products that add into livestock and poultry feed to make them more nutritious.

The second and third floors of the plant collapsed on top of the first floor as key structural supports failed Monday. Kanger said firefighters were able to rescue five men initially, including one they cut out of the debris.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will determine the cause of the accident, but Kanger said the investigation could take weeks.

The explosion knocked out the lights in the building and sent workers scrambling for safety.

There appears to be structural damage to the top of the building, which sits in an industrial area just south of Interstate 80, which bisects Omaha. There are no residences nearby and the other industrial buildings nearby weren’t evacuated after the explosion.

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